IBM is unveiling version 4.0 of its Connections social business platform, featuring new social capabilities as well as support for open standards.

Connections 4 Delves into Twitter/Facebook Territory

A new microblogging feature allows Connections users to attach files their personal status messages and also tag them with searchable Twitter-style hashtags. Status updates also can be reposted and “liked.” These features make Connections postings more like both Twitter and Facebook postings. 


Earlier this week, Web publishing platform WordPress started offering VIP users Twitter-like instant blogging functionality through its new Liveblog Add-on. The add-on is designed to make WordPress competitive with Twitter as a means of providing quick, real-time commentary and updates, and IBM appears to be gearing up Connections as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook for business users, as well.

Social Analytics, Communities Updated

Existing Connections social analytics capabilities have been strengthened with system-wide metrics that make more than 100 new reports available and trend-tracking functionality. Updates to Connections Communities include a new view called “Recent Updates” which provides a centralized place to see what is happening in a community, a community activity stream that provides access to approved third-party applications and a wall for status updates (another Facebook-like feature). 

In addition, this release introduces new support for open standards such as, OpenSocial and OAuth2.


Learning Opportunities

Connections 4 also offers mobile support and starting September 20 will give users the ability to have access to and manage their mail and calendar content directly from IBM Connections. IBM supports IBM Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange environments.

Meeting Market Expectations

With its new version of Connections, IBM may overcome criticism of the platform leveled by industry observers such as Josh Dormont of the Collaboration for Good blog, who in a post earlier this year opined about what he saw as shortcomings of Connections. Although Dormont said “only organizations with heavy-handed IT departments were going to love (Connections),” he added that Connections benefits from “agile, constant improvement and a deep focus on building tools to meet business needs.” 

Dormont went on to say that considering its resources IBM should deliver a better social intranet solution out of the box and negatively commented on Connections as a “networking platform first and a collaboration platform second,” compared to Salesforce, which created its CRM collaboration platform before launching its Chatter networking platform.

The latest version of Connections includes significant upgrades to both networking and collaboration functionality, so it will be interesting to see how the blogosphere -- and customers -- react.